Joseph Chetcuti hails ‘indispensable’ EUFSC aid in making new TV contest a reality

Brillanti will be new TV competition for performers, artists, and musicians in the Maltese islands that will be co-sponsored by the European Foundation for Support of Culture 

Joseph Chetcuti
Joseph Chetcuti

TV personality Joseph Chetcuti has long become a household name in Malta and Gozo, with the presenter climbing to fame on the back of his violin performances on Xarabank, before cementing his status with a series of successful TV productions, including Nies ta’ Veru, Tiramisu, and the extremely popular, and still running, Arani Issa. Now, Chetcuti is set to launch a new television production entitled Brillanti, a competition targeted towards performers, artists, and musicians in the Maltese Islands that will be co-sponsored by the European Foundation for Support of Culture (EUFSC).

Local audiences probably know Joseph Chetcuti through one of the many television productions that he has often helmed to great success, or perhaps through his stint as a violinist on Xarabank earlier on in his career, or even maybe as a result of his multiple appearances on the Malta Song for Europe Festival, as well as his trip to the 2007 edition of the European Song Contest with Oliva Lewis.

Irrespective of how people first got to know him, their first glimpse of the TV star included a violin in his hand: although a lawyer by trade, Chetcuti has been studying the violin since he was just five years old.

Now, Chetcuti is putting his artistic roots to use, with the launch of a brand-new television competition that shall be targeted specifically towards Malta’s artists and performers, with the first season set to focus on Maltese musicians of every type and calibre.

Brillanti set to launch in April 2022, and will air primetime on ONE TV. All musicians are being invited to apply, with all instruments, ranging from the classical to the modern, being welcome. The eventual winner of the competition will then be awarded €10,000 in cash, along with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel abroad and perform in concert alongside an international orchestra, thanks to the EUFSC. Next year and in the subsequent years, Brillanti shall then focus on other skills embraced by our society such as dance, design, painting, sculpture, and other skills that merit recognition.

We met up with Chetcuti to talk about the thought-process behind this new venture, his dreams for the Maltese artistic community and what he hopes the series will achieve, and his views on how organisations like the EUFSC are helping to enrich Malta’s cultural and music sector.

Can you tell us a bit about the background and the thought process behind the idea of Brillanti?

I grew up in a very musical and artistic family, and my parents always made sure to create a cultured environment, and insisted that we need to have art in our veins, so to speak. So I began studying the violin at the age of five, and it became my passion and my life. Eventually, I was even chosen to play with the Mediterranean Youth Orchestra which gave me a taste of the joy of performing abroad and playing alongside other musicians. However, there were far fewer opportunities and far less mobility at the time, so soon I was forced to follow another course, which was when I embarked on a career as a lawyer.

However, the passion for art never left me and kept calling me to it, and soon after I went on TV with my violin, and ever since then, for the last 25 years that I’ve been working on television, I’ve had the dream to create a professionally-produced platform for youth who, just like I was at their age, have a desire to become brilliant, to become stars, and are only looking for the chance to show it. 

Ultimately, that’s where the initial idea started. No one becomes a star by luck alone. You have to work hard for it, but we do have many seriously talented artistic people here in Malta with the only problem being that there aren’t the platforms that can provide them with recognition on a national level, that can allow the public to see that music is also an art form, a technique, and a way of living that makes you whole and that colours your life.

I kept on dreaming about this because I only wanted to make it after I had established myself enough, and gained enough experience to make sure that I could pull it off in the best way possible, and finally it was Covid-19 that gave me the final push to go through with it! This pandemic allowed me to have some time to think, and I realised that if I did not pursue this dream now, I would find myself regretting it in the future.

Who is being invited to apply for this first series of Brillanti?

Well, this first edition, which will start airing in April 2022 and will air primetime on ONE TV, shall be focusing on musicians of all types. Next year and in subsequent years we will be opening the series up to other sectors of the local artistic community, including dance, for instance, and even the visual arts, but this will take place in later seasons. This year we shall be focusing on musicians and in fact, the programme is open to musicians of all instruments, including strings, woodwind, brass, percussion… everything, including both classical instruments as well as more modern ones like electric guitar for instance. We’re also including voice in this category (limited to the operatic, jazz and musical theatre sector), since we believe that the voice can also be a great instrument.

We’re receiving an avalanche of applications at the moment, and there’s already a very interesting variety both with regard to instruments as well as the people who are applying. Ultimately, I think it shows that there is a strong desire from Maltese artists for these types of opportunities, firstly because these are somewhat lacking at the moment, and secondly because this will be aired on national television, and will thus give people the chance to achieve a degree of recognition among the public.

And also, of course, there is the question of the final prize which is also a very nice draw, since the winner will be going home with €10,000 in cash, as well as the opportunity to perform in Malta or abroad in an international concert alongside an orchestra with all expenses paid, thanks to the generosity of the European Foundation for Support of Culture, who are one of our main sponsors in this endeavour. For most musicians, this is probably an even greater prize than the €10,000 since such opportunities are very difficult to come across in normal circumstances, so we’re very grateful to the EUFSC for helping us give Maltese artists this chance, as well as for all their support with the programme as a whole.

Groups like the EUFSC and people like Konstantin Ishkhanov who leads the Foundation are not just important nowadays, but indispensable, in my opinion. When you take the decision to pursue a career as a musician, especially here in Malta, you know that you’re going to be taking a risk, and that it will probably be a difficult road when it comes to finances. So to all those who are brave enough to insist on following their passions nonetheless, foundations like the EUFSC are priceless. They help all those who wish to better themselves, and they are also extremely beneficial for Malta as a whole as well, since they are helping to raise the level of culture and music and the arts in Malta.

We have all grown up now and realised that fairy tales are just that – fairy tales! Dreams are nice but you have to work for them, and unfortunately, if you want to study abroad, and to dedicate the long hours necessary to make it in music, you need a lot of hard work, and a lot of financial support. That is why I believe that the presence of entities like the EUFSC are priceless for us because they can help make our dreams come true.

What format shall this programme take? Shall it be a knockout-style competition?

Technically it will be a competition, although I don’t really like referring to it as a competition because one of our main aims is to give as much exposure as possible to all those who apply and to provide youth with an opportunity to show off their talents.

The initial selection process itself will probably be one of the trickiest things; how to choose from such a wide variety of applicants. However, those who are experienced in music will tell you that you can assess someone’s degree of competence almost immediately when hearing them play, irrespective of instrument, and so they will quickly be able to identify those who are a cut above the rest. And in fact, we’ve made certain to ensure that our jury panel will be made of experienced and professional people both from Malta and beyond who have spent years in this industry and who will easily be able to select the most promising candidates to proceed beyond the selection process.

After this, the chosen participants shall engage in a number of musical competitions between them until they are eventually whittled down to around six finalists who will compete in a final night in which the winner shall be crowned and walk away with his prize. The finalists will be mentored by one of the jury members throughout their journey, and in fact, I can already reveal that the official mentor for this season will be Wayne Marshall, whose reputation for professionalism travels ahead of him. He has all the ingredients to be a great mentor – experience, rigour, and a degree of humanity – and he will be a significant and positive influence on those who make it through past the initial stages.

From the applications that have already come in, I can already see that they will be a very diverse set, and I for one cannot wait to see them interacting with one another and performing together, since we will not only be judging how well they can play on the own, but also how well they can perform alongside others as well. To that end we shall be introducing a series of situations where they will be asked to perform with each other, as well as to tackle different styles of music – we’re even going to test them with arrangements of traditional Maltese music for instance – because we want to look at different facets of their skillset. Ultimately, there will always be two who will be subject to elimination in every programme, and these will then compete in a playoff to see who gets to stay and who gets to leave.

Over the course of the programme we will also get to see the participants not just as musicians but also as people. We will go to the finalists’ homes, meet their families, see their way of life, and the hours and effort they dedicate to practicing their art. We will delve into the human side of the artist in short, to show the public the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. Truthfully, I really want them to become popular in their own right, to have their own spark of fame, and for this programme to act as a springboard for them.

You yourself have developed quite a reputation in Malta as the man behind a series of successful TV productions. How do you look at this new venture when compared to those? Do you think it will be able to reach the same heights?

I have no doubt that it will. I happen to have the advantage of being an extremely energetic and tireless person, in all that I do, but especially in those projects which I have closest to heart, and this programme is something that I have been dreaming about for years. I have put my heart and soul into this programme, I find myself waking up at night, not because of worry but out of excitement, and when there is that level of commitment and professionalism, with no stones left unturned, I am certain that it will be successful.

Do you believe that a series like that can help bring about a greater appreciation and interest in culture and the arts in Malta, and that it may help to inspire people?

Yes I do, but it isn’t just what I think will happen, it’s also what I want. My dream is that in the year following the first series there will be an avalanche of people going out to buy instruments and start learning how to play them, that we can bring about a shortage of violins, pianos, and other instruments because of how many people across Malta and Gozo will be touched by the yearning to love and play music. And I believe it will happen because I am sure that this programme will be able to endow music with a touch of colour and excitement that it deserves. This is not just something I’m hoping for, but a goal that I am explicitly working towards.

If there is someone reading this who is perhaps interested in applying but is holding back out of a sense of shyness or the impression that they may not be good enough, what would be your message for them?

If I knew who they were I would phone them personally, and even go straight to their house if need be! Believe it or not, I myself was extremely shy when I was young. I used to be terrified of appearing in front of people and performing live. But music helped to enrich my personality, to give me traits that have helped me in areas far beyond the musical sphere. Performing in front of people helped to mould my character and personality, and I fully believe that it can do the same for everyone else as well.

Today I can honestly say that I am where I am, both in my personal and professional lives, because of the fact that I began playing the violin. Ultimately, if you become capable of performing in front of people, that gives you a discipline, an energy, and a professionalism which you can then translate to other areas of life.

So to those who may still be thinking about it, I say apply, and do so now. There is nothing to lose and a lot to gain, both in terms of financial prizes and opportunities, as well as for yourselves, and your own character development.

Brillanti will air on ONE TV from April 2022. Applications for the first series are currently open. For further information kindly contact us on 99229011